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Most, if not all of us, believe our health is the greatest gift we can hope for, and with good reason. Without it, we can’t function well, and that causes psychological pain and suffering on top of the physical suffering.
The Baha’i teachings make it clear. Abdu’l-Baha wrote “Although ill health is one of the unavoidable conditions of man, truly it is hard to bear. The bounty of good health is the greatest of all gifts.”
When our health suffers, our daily lives, plans, and routines are disrupted, sometimes horribly. Others see us hurting and don’t quite know how to help, or if they can, it sometimes turns into a burden we don’t want them to take on. Caring for someone you love who has terminal cancer in their last days is a gut-wrenching ordeal, a far cry from friends bringing entrees to the house to supplant the need for cooking.
During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it struck us or we saw others struck down. Even knowledgeable physicians and capable hospitals couldn’t bring them back. So far, in the United States, we’ve experienced 608 million cases of Covid-19, and 6.5 million deaths – grandparents, parents, children, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, doctors and nurses themselves, and fellow human beings.
If it weren’t for our public health professionals, along with vaccines, boosters, and masks, statistics would be far worse.
The pandemic has brought us all closer to our own mortality. We all know we will die, but even so, we want to avoid the suffering that leads us there. Many of the world’s religious texts say that humans will inevitably suffer during this physical life, and of course suffering and pain can make us stronger. But when we are hurting, that reality rarely makes us feel physically better. We pray for immediate relief, a miracle, or the magic modern medicine can provide.
Science, research, doctors, and those who care about us, are all our friends when pain or disease strikes. It can strike like lightning, random, unforeseen, or gradually, hidden, and surreptitiously. My father died at age 50, from a massive heart attack in his sleep. My cousin had a long bout with cancer and lost despite extensive trials and experimentations. We all know someone close who has died, and for some, we are inconsolable.
What We Can Do to Stay Healthy
In 2022 TV commercials blast us with one pharmaceutical commercial after another. Workout gyms dot the U.S. landscape. Expensive health drinks and concoctions, vitamin supplements, and organic foods vie for our dollars. One day drinking coffee is bad for us, then a new study says three cups a day is okay. The list of what not-to-dos, like smoking, taking illegal drugs or abusing legal ones, goes on and on. Few can keep up with all of the research findings, cures, miracle claims, formulas, prescriptions, and advice from others.
The Baha’i Faith offers a solution to this morass of sometimes contradictory data. “In all matters moderation is desirable,” Baha’u’llah said. “If a thing is carried to excess, it will prove a source of evil.”
Moderation means combining the practical and the principled, without prejudice, to create a healthy approach to living your life. In fact, moderation means adopting a justice-centered outlook on your own existence. Baha’u’llah wrote: “Whoso cleaveth to justice, can, under no circumstances, transgress the limits of moderation.”
We can reach that justice-centered, moderate approach to life by studying and absorbing the teachings and words of God, conveyed by His teachers and prophets through the ages. In this day, Baha’is believe, the newest of those prophets is Baha’u’llah.
The Baha’i Teachings on Health and Healing
The Baha’i teachings have a huge repository of excellent guidance on building and keeping healthy lifestyles. In a speech he gave in New York in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, said:
To admit that health is good does not constitute health. A skilled physician is needed to remedy existing human conditions. As a physician is required to have complete knowledge of pathology, diagnosis, therapeutics and treatment, so this World Physician must be wise, skillful and capable before health will result. His mere knowledge is not health; it must be applied and the remedy carried out.
Sadly, the world does not yet have cures for every physical ailment and disease. That’s why the Baha’i teachings call for the essential agreement between science and religion. Abdu’l-Baha wrote that: “… among the teachings of Baha’u’llah is that religion must be in conformity with science and reason, so that it may influence the hearts of men. The foundation must be solid and must not consist of imitations.”
To guard against imitations, we need research and science, a mechanism to inoculate ourselves against misinformation, and the understanding that will enable the right decisions about our physical well-being – along with competent physicians, nurses, technicians, and specialists to treat us. After laboratory research and clinical trials, those dedicated scientists can help us heal our own unique complex of cells in our body and mind.
Prayers Heal, Too
We dismiss spiritual healing at our peril, because it can have positive effects on our spirit, improving our body’s responses to overcome disease. The Baha’i writings contain many passages and prayers regarding human health, including this one from Abdu’l-Baha, from a letter to a Baha’i woman in ill health:
O handmaid of God! The prayers which were revealed to ask for healing apply both to physical and spiritual healing. Recite them, then, to heal both the soul and the body. If healing is right for the patient, it will certainly be granted; but for some ailing persons, healing would only be the cause of other ills, and therefore wisdom doth not permit an affirmative answer to the prayer.
O handmaid of God! The power of the Holy Spirit healeth both physical and spiritual ailments.
Many of the Baha’i prayers for health and healing, including this short prayer from Baha’u’llah, call on the merciful Creator to remedy our ills and restore hope and happiness in our hearts:
Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
All of us will suffer in this life. No one escapes it. How we act to prevent and overcome it, and our attitude towards it, make us grateful for those times without it.